Work has started in West Belfast to dismantle a security wall that has stood for nearly three decades.
The three-metre high brick wall divides Springfield Road and Springhill Avenue and was erected in 1989 as a security measure to provide extra protection to residents and the nearby New Barnsley police station. Transformation work on the site will include environmental improvements around the land next to two derelict houses and new community artwork.
The community-led decision to change the site was reached following careful relationship building initiatives facilitated by the Black Mountain Shared Spaces Project with support from the International Fund for Ireland, the Department of Justice and the Housing Executive.
Seamus Corr, Project coordinator for the Black Mountain Shared Spaces Project, said:
“The removal of the Springhill Avenue barrier is a significant step forward for the local community. This about more than just changing the physical look of this area, it shows that communities are willing, with support, to work towards positive change. The removal of a wall is not a starting point nor an end point, but a significant milestone on the journey towards a positive future.”
The project received financial assistance from the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Walls Programme and its Chairman, Dr Adrian Johnston, said:
“There should be no place for physical separation barriers in a truly reconciled society. While we have not yet reached that stage, the community-led decision to remove this division demonstrates a desire for change. The communities’ decision to remove the wall at Springhill Avenue and the alterations that are taking place illustrate what can be achieved with strong local leadership and by fully engaging those who live next to physical barriers.
“The vast majority of barriers are located within communities that continue to suffer disproportionately due to the conflict and the risks associated with removal lie almost exclusively with the residents and communities most impacted by their presence. Through our Peace Walls Programme, Black mountain Shared Spaces Project has worked with local residents to envisage a positive future and collectively enable this project to be delivered.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said:
“This work has been made possible through the investment of ‘Together: Building United Communities’ funding. The Department support the progress that has been made at Springhill Avenue and recognises the significance of this work. It demonstrates what can be achieved when community and statutory organisations work together to build confidence within communities. We will continue to support those groups who are seeking to remove such remnants of our divided past.”
Housing Executive Housing Services Manager Paddy Kelly said, “We were pleased to be involved with this very positive project and it is great see collaborative working with a range of partners making such an impact.
“We supported the community-led engagement efforts of the Black Mountain Shared Spaces Project and helped with the consultation which took place with local tenants and residents.
“To see one of Belfast’s interface barriers coming down is a very welcome step.”
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